Roger's Postings

Saturday, July 25, 2009

John 6:1-15. Is the gift more important than the giver?? 26/7/09

(1) Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), {2} and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. {3} Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. {4} The Jewish Passover Feast was near. {5} When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" {6} He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. {7} Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" {8} Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, {9} "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" {10} Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. {11} Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. {12} When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." {13} So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. {14} After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." {15} Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

What a miracle we have here in the feeding of the five thousand! What a tremendous feat to feed so many with just one little boy's lunch! And not just give them a light snack, but fill then right up and have heaps left over. Far, far more than they started out with. This surely has to be a great miracle - something truly special. Certainly, it was that, despite the fact that many today would only say that it is just a great story. It never really happened like that. “No one can tell me that that sort of thing could really be true. At the very best it was a display of how one little boy who was willing to share his lunch encouraged all the others to do the same.”

However, here we need to be certain that this truly was a great miracle beyond this sort of thinking. The peoples reaction before and after this miracle are a good indication of the authenticity of its happening. Nobody, far less a great crowd, goes roaming all over the countryside into remote and out of the way places following someone, if there is no substance to Jesus’ miracles. Certainly, they wouldn't have wanted to make him king if he wasn't capable of, and have shown that he can, do extraordinary things.

That then is where the real crunch comes in the reporting of this event. Here we have a damning shot at the people who were out there that day; and which must surely make us sit up and start thinking. Because we today are no different than the people way back there in Jesus day. They see a miracle and off they run trying to get a piece of the action: So that they and we can get the sorts of things out life that we want and think are good for us. For all of us there is the danger of the gift being more important and valuable than the giver. The giver becomes important, only in so far as he can give us what we want.

There is a real danger that we love to see miracles, so that we can sit back and enjoy life and know that we have someone there who is going to see to it that everything goes well for us: so that we can sit back and enjoy life, doing what we want: thinking we are OK because God has done all these great things in life for us. Once again, we see the me, first, last and only, syndrome coming into play.

When are we going to wake up? When are we going to understand that those miracles that Jesus performed are signs: Signs, which point us away from ourselves to the direction that we should be looking and going. Signs, pointing us to the One who is all important. Here again in this miracle we have a sign which clearly says; “I am the Almighty God who loves you and cares for you. I am here in your midst to help you to see that I and what I am about to do on the cross is what is all important for you. Repent, and believe the Good News that I have for you. Trust in me alone.' 'I am the One who is most important in life, not the gifts I give.' The gift itself, means nothing, if it doesn't lead us to faith in Jesus Christ and the importance of his death on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. The miracle is nothing if doesn't lead us to believe and trust solely in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. It is nothing if doesn't awaken in us true faith.

So we see that these miracles are given for a purpose, and that is not just to help us out and make life easy for us without taking us to another level in our thinking and living. They are an important way that God shows that he is for real and that he has come to help us out of the mess that we have made for ourselves. His miracles assure us that God is the Almighty Lord over all things and that he wants us to look to and trust in him.

Here today we need to understand that there are many miracles happening around us every day. Many miracles. Not just the big spectacular ones like healing from some incurable disease or escape from some disaster, as we hear of again and again. But what about the fact that God has been very good to us for many, many years, here in this country. We are still doing very well thank you - despite the drought and the recession. We have all got a good roof over our heads and enough rags to cover our bodies. We still get a lot more than three feeds of bread and dripping. And here, don't tell me it's because of how good we are and how hard we have worked, that we have these things. We don't deserve to be in the position we are in. We don’t deserve to have the baskets full of riches left over, that we have. It is a miracle that God should give us all of this and more. It is the goodness of God that enables us to enjoy these many things; which is way in excess of what most people in the world have.

Now what have we done in response those many miracles. We seem to be far worse than the people of Jesus’ day. At least they wanted to make him king. In this country, all we seem to want to do is ignore him and pretend that he is not there. That is until we get into some sort of trouble; and then we expect him to perform some great miracle to help us out once again.

Yet despite all this, we see that Jesus continues to take the initiative. Even though he knew that the people were, and still, only seem to be following him because of the miracles; he again takes the initiative and gives them and us another chance. Out of his love for us, even though we do not deserve it, he gives us another chance – he performs another miracle as a sign that points us to him and helps us to see the giver as the one who is important and valuable.

Then he goes on and performs an even greater miracle to give us more than another sign that helps to believe in him as the all-important One. Through this sign, he makes it quite plain who he is and what he is on about: On his own initiative, he does become king and takes his place on the throne. There on the cross he shows us what his kingdom is all about. There on the cross he shows us what is all important and truly needful in life. There we have the sign which lights up our world and leaves us, surely, in no doubt as to the extent that God is prepared to go for us. There is the sign that says; 'I forgive you all your sins:' the sign which says; 'I am the way and the truth and the life, and that no one comes to the Father but by me.' And 'God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.' Once again he has given us the opportunity to turn to him and believe in him as the only way of salvation: As the only One who is truly important.

Then following that comes, the greatest of all miracles -the rising to new life. The power of God here works the truly incredible. Now we know that there is a living, loving, saving, all-powerful Lord at work in our lives. There is life and salvation there for us in connection with this Jesus Christ. Now then, we can look away from ourselves to the Lord Jesus and glorify him. In the time left here on earth, he now gives us what is necessary for us to spread that message of his love: to help us to help others to see that the Giver is far more important and valuable than the gift. Therein we receive the greatest blessings of all.

So again, we see why miracles occur. Always and ever, helping us mere mortals to lift our eyes from the here and now; and focus them on the One who is all-important: on Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. There it is that we find and are a part of that which is truly great for this life, as well as for the next. In Jesus, God Almighty has come to us, to help us to be a part of that which is truly great and important. To him alone then be all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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